Some downtown Steamboat residents fighting to silence early morning street sweeping
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The Steamboat Springs City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Citizens Hall. Public comment is accepted at the time of each agenda item. General public comment on items not on the agenda is at 7 p.m. or the end of the meeting, whichever comes first.
Steamboat Springs — Some downtown residents are making some noise in response to the city of Steamboat Springs’ request to continue loud but important street sweeping operations early in the morning.
To silence the noise, the residents are now writing letters to the City Council and forwarding them lengthy studies that document the negative impacts of loud noises on a person’s health and sleep.
The city has been sweeping the downtown streets prior to 7 a.m. for more than 20 years.
However, in recent years, some residents in the busy downtown corridor have complained to the city about the noise and pointed out the operations are being done in violation of the city’s own noise code.
“Last winter, (my wife and I) were awakened on numerous occasions between the hours of 4 to 6 a.m. by city sweepers equipment,” Olympian condominiums resident Dennis Lum recently wrote in a letter to City Council.
He said the sweeper operators were apologetic and turned down their backup beepers after some 5 a.m. complaints, “but the core problem still remained.”
The city last month submitted a proposal to City Council to add an exemption for the street sweepers.
The move to change the noise ordinance comes nearly two years after some council members started forwarding a few complaints about the street sweeper noise to the public works department.
In May 2013, Council President Bart Kounovsky emailed Public Works Director Chuck Anderson saying he had heard from a downtown condo resident who was wondering why the city was sweeping the streets at 5 a.m. The resident told Kounovsky he thought it was against the city’s noise code.
The next day, Anderson emailed his streets crew to ask for input.
They said if they swept at 7 a.m., cars “would be parked along Lincoln and the side streets therefore we would have to go around the cars and not sweep as efficiently.”
The street-sweeping issue was not publicly addressed by city staff until last month.
The police department in recent years has not fielded an abundance of noise complaints against the street sweepers, according to Steamboat Police Sgt. Scott Middleton.
He said he couldn’t recall a time in his eight-year career at the police department he had to review a report focused on the noise.
The current ordinance makes exceptions for snow removal equipment and emergency vehicles but not the street-sweeping vehicles.
According to city staff, 5 to 7 a.m. is the most practical and efficient time for street-sweeping operations to occur downtown because parked cars and traffic make it more difficult to sweep effectively outside of those hours.
The sweeping operations remove scoria and other particulates from the street and play an important role in maintaining the city’s air quality.
Last month, the city council voted, 6-1, to approve the first reading of an ordinance to allow the sweeping operations.
Walter Magill opposed the change, saying he felt downtown residents were being punished for living downtown.
Since that vote, the council has received letters from about nine downtown residents and homeowners associations opposing the proposed exception in the noise ordinance for street sweepers.
An opponent of the sweeper noise also sent the council 155 pages of documents mostly focused on loud noise and its negative impacts on things like sleep.
The council will hold a public hearing about the noise ordinance change and consider final approval of the ordinance change at its meeting Tuesday night.
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